One of my worries about changing the clocks was that Sydney's fall time version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde would return in full force. For the last two fall seasons, riding him after work in the waning daylight hours was a guarantee that I would be in tears by the ride's end, and he would be damp with nervous sweat.
So far (Fate, please hear and see my knock on wood!), we've made it through the first week without that weird late afternoon induced tension. When I hopped up on Thursday night, I thought I felt it brewing. He was jigging at the walk, something he never does. Rather than get tense, I simply sent him forward and let him really move out, but while he did so, I started my up, up, down exercise. Before I had made it even halfway around the arena, he settled into an acceptable rhythm, and I was able to start really working.
His head was up in the clouds, so I asked him to lower it. I didn't insist on any roundness, but that head had to come back down to planet Earth. When he resisted, I put him in a 10-meter circle and asked that inside hind to step deeply. All of a sudden, his head came back down to our atmosphere, and he maintained the rhythm.
I could have hopped off right then and there. Last fall, that would have taken me 45 minutes to achieve. On Thursday, it took less than 5 minutes. In fact, he was so submissive that I went straight to a right lead canter. It wasn't a great departure, okay, it kind of stunk, but it was on the correct lead, and we did eventually make a circle. I brought him back to walk and asked for another one.
And then, just like JL suggested, we took a walk break and started talking about something else. We picked up a left lead canter, spiraled in, spiraled out, and had another walk break.
I then asked him to track right again. He was tense and had zero bend in his body so I rode him one stride at a time asking for him to release his neck. Every single time he tried to hang on my inside rein, I bumped him off of it. For the first few minutes, I bumped him every single stride. For the next couple of minutes, I bumped him every other stride. And then finally, he gave me a half a circle before I needed to ask him to quit hanging on that inside rein.
For those of you that are better riders on better schooled horses, you're probably thinking I am the world's slowest learner. You're probably right, but that can't erase the big ol' grin that's plastered across my face!
There is a little postscript to this post; when I rode on Sunday, the next door neighbor was working on his quads and motorcycles. For a while they would idle, which is almost a soothing sound, but then would come the inevitable vroom, vroom of a revving throttle. Sydney worked through it all. He was tense right at the beginning so I did a million 10-meter circles; some to the left, some to the right, but he finally "gave in" enough to pick up the canter both directions.
This may seem like a small thing, but in our world, it's huge. The neighbor, whom I adore, was working right next to the arena, but behind his trees, so he was quite close. I think most "hotter" horses would have found it difficult to concentrate in that situation, yet Sydney was able to pull it together for me (to some degree).
We're definitely making progress!